|New PA Graduation Requirements will be a Hurdle for Students
As if high school students haven’t had enough to deal with, new graduation requirements go into effect this year.
A startlingly low 35% of students would graduate under the changes, according to the Philadelphia Education Research Consortium.
There’s no reason to believe that Philly is unique in this situation because all students are subject to the new requirements.
New high school graduation requirements were enacted in 2018 with the intention of offering students differing pathways to graduation.
Students won’t have to pass all three Keystone Exams (algebra, biology, and literature) to graduate; they can mix-and-match from alternate pathways like competency in career and technical education (CTE) or apprenticeship programs.
This is good news for students who excel in CTE, don’t speak English as a first language, or don’t test well. It sets up students for success in life by allowing them to channel their interests, career goals, and natural aptitude.
This is also bad news for students because research shows that too few schools are prepared for the change. In Philadelphia, details have just recently been shared with parents and schools lack the staff to support students.
The Philadelphia Education Research Consortium estimates “that over half [of School District of Philadelphia students] will need targeted support to dramatically improve their Keystone performance or may need to pursue alternative pathways to graduate.” With only 36% of District middle school students meeting state standards in reading and only 22% in math, it’s no surprise that high school students are struggling.
Even Superintendent Watlington’s Transition Team observed that the School District of Philadelphia doesn’t have a “system for developing expertise among educators” and “lacks a clear theory of action on how it expects to raise student achievement.”
School districts around the state are in similar situations and the revised high school requirements come at a tough, post-COVID time. Even with historic state education funding increases, districts aren’t flush with cash. There’s no money to hire more counselors to help students with academics and social/emotional wellness AND these new pathways to graduation. There’s no money to build a strong CTE program if one is not in place.
The new graduation requirements may be in the best interest of students, but they’re also a good example of unfunded state mandates.
If state leaders really want our children and grandchildren to be successful and happy, they would fill the $4.6 billion education shortfall so schools actually have the resources to make it possible.